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Milestone moment: Cowboys give Austin a six-year, $54M deal

  • By NFL.com Wire Reports
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Pro Bowl wide receiver Miles Austin is going deep with the Dallas Cowboys -- from undrafted rookie to a breakout season and now a long-term contract extension.

The Cowboys and Austin agreed to a six-year extension through the 2016 season Thursday, just three days before the fifth-year pro's first season opener as a starter.

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"My career started here, you guys gave me a shot and obviously I put my all out there every day," said Austin, who was pulled out of offensive meetings for the unexpected yet unsurprising announcement. "It feels great to be wanted by this team because I want to be here."

Austin agreed a one-year, $3.168 million tender as a restricted free agent in June, but Cowboys owner Jerry Jones repeatedly said he wanted to sign the receiver to a long-term deal. That finally was done just before the season opener Sunday at Washington.

Cowboys vice president Stephen Jones would only confirm the length of the extension, not the financial terms. However, a league source told NFL Network insider Jason La Canfora that the deal includes $20 million in guaranteed money and a maximum value of $54.1 million, including $18 million in 2010 and $25.5 million during the first two years.

In his first career start last October at Kansas City, Austin had 10 catches for a team-record 250 yards and two late touchdowns, including the 60-yard game-winner in overtime. He broke the single-game yardage record held by Hall of Fame receiver "Bullet Bob" Hayes since 1966.

That was quite a breakout performance for Austin, who entered that game with 23 career catches, including five in the first four games last season.

Yet, he wasn't a one-game wonder.

Austin's encore was six catches for 171 yards and two more touchdowns in the Cowboys' next game. Austin, 26, received a spot in the Pro Bowl after finishing the season with 81 catches for 1,320 yards, sixth-best in team history and the sixth-best by any undrafted receiver ever in the NFL.

The Cowboys don't anticipate the receiver from tiny Monmouth College in New Jersey being a one-year wonder.

"We all are familiar and admire the way Miles has evolved into the player he is today. We're also very impressed with the person that he is," Jones said. "I've never felt like when we have made this kind of commitment to any individual that we've ever been as prepared or better informed about what he is as a player and as a person. That's a good feeling and made this very comfortable in terms of getting this done.

"He's what we want to build our franchise around."

The Cowboys already had quarterback Tony Romo, who like Austin came into the league as an undrafted free agent, signed to a long-term contract along with linebacker DeMarcus Ware, tight end Jason Witten and nose tackle Jay Ratliff. All are Pro Bowl players.

Stephen Jones said it was important to seal Austin's deal before the start of the new season, though he said "it happened in short order" once negotiations really began after the team returned from training camp in Oxnard, Calif., about two weeks ago.

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"The big thing we needed to do was just get our hands around all the uncertainties that are out there," Stephen Jones said, referring to pending NFL negotiations with the players' union. "At the end of the day, we knew were going to have Miles and we were going to figure out how to make that work."

Cowboys coach Wade Phillips said Austin continued to work hard during the offseason and into preseason workouts even though the contract situation had to be on his mind. And the coach isn't concerned about Austin's quick ascension from virtual unknown to Pro Bowl player with a long-term contract in less than a year's time.

"I am confident in Miles. Yeah, he's only done it one year, but what a year," Phillips said. "He's shown so many things. He had the greatest game in Cowboys history. That's pretty strong. It not like a guy who just had a good year. He had a tremendous year, and he had tremendous games that nobody's had before. I think that's part of the confidence.

"He's such a hard worker, he is a great athlete and he's learned how to pull it all together. I think that will continue."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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